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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

MLB Officially Investigating Gambling Allegations Against Ohtani’s Close Friend and Longtime Teammate

  • Reports surfaced last week that David Fletcher placed bets with the same bookmaker as Ippei Mizuhara. 
  • Fletcher played with Ohtani from 2018 to ’23 and was long reputed to be close with the star.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The fallout from Mathew Bowyer’s alleged illegal bookmaking operation isn’t quite over for MLB.

The league said Monday it has opened an official investigation into gambling allegations surrounding David Fletcher, a former Angels player and close friend of Shohei Ohtani who is now in the minor leagues, according to ESPN.

ESPN reported Friday that Fletcher and his close friend Colby Schultz, another minor leaguer, had placed bets with Bowyer, the same bookmaker used by Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. Some of Schultz’s bets included Angels games in which Fletcher played, while Fletcher bet on sports excluding baseball, ESPN reported.

Earlier this month, Mizuhara agreed to plead guilty to stealing nearly $17 million from Ohtani to gamble through Bowyer, as well as lying about his income to the IRS.

Fletcher, 29, played with Ohtani from 2018 to ’23, and is now with the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Fletcher has said that he’s “good friends” with Ohtani. He will be allowed to keep playing during the investigation and also decline to be interviewed for it if he can show he might become part of a criminal investigation.

Authorities raided Bowyer’s home in October 2023 as part of a federal investigation. Government help will be crucial for MLB’s investigation, a league source told ESPN, due to a lack of evidence.

According to MLB rules, players can bet on other sports but not baseball. And if they bet with an illegal bookmaker, they are subject to a punishment as the “Commissioner deems appropriate.” The most severe penalty for players caught gambling, a lifetime ban, was handed down by the NBA in April after an investigation found Raptors player Jontay Porter bet on his own games and changed his play for betting advantages. Fletcher could face a hefty punishment if he is found to have adjusted his play for Schultz’s bets, even if he didn’t place his own bets on baseball.

An MLB spokesperson declined to comment.

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